10 Great Golf Event Ideas

golfers walking toward putting green
Organizing a golf tournament can be about as challenging as the back nine on a bad day, especially if you want to make yours stand out from the rest.
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Golf tournaments, whether they're used for business purposes or as charity events, have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Most serious golfers could attend a tournament every weekend (and some do), so creating a unique event can be a daunting task. How do you make yours stand out from the crowd?

The venue is probably the most important decision in the planning process, but format is crucial, too. The fundraising opportunities at a golf tournament don't begin and end with the entry fee -- there are plenty of chances over the course of the day to make money for your cause. So you need to make the most of your format.


Consider your target players when you're thinking about format -- you don't want to bore them, but if you do wander too far out of the box, you could end up causing confusion. The best way to go is to pick a familiar format -- scramble, best ball and alternate shot are popular choices -- and then throw in a few add-on contests to keep things interesting (and to keep the donations flowing). The little extras (and a great after-tournament banquet) are the way you'll set your tournament apart from the pack.

10: Scramble

The scramble is the most popular golf tournament format. There are a number of different versions of the scramble, usually based on how handicaps are calculated. Participants play in two- or four-person teams -- everyone tees off on every hole, and then they all play their second shot from the spot where the best drive landed. The third shot is played from the best second shot, and so on until the first ball is in the hole.


9: Best Ball

Best ball is one of the most straightforward tournament formats out there. Everyone's in two- or four-person teams, playing their own balls just as they would in a normal round. The twist? Only one player's score counts -- the lowest score on each hole is recorded as the team score. To keep teams from using the same player's score from every hole, there's usually a rule that says each player's score must be used a certain number of times -- even if it's not the lowest.


8: Beat the Pro

Beat the pro is another popular tournament add-on; if you have a willing pro, it's a guaranteed moneymaker. Station the pro at the tee of a short par-3 hole and offer players the chance to bet that they can hit a drive closer to the hole than the pro can. You can suggest a standard bet, but it's often more fun to set the sky as the limit and see how much you can rake in.


7: Closest to the Pin

closest to pin
Closest to the pin is a fun -- and challenging -- add-on contest that's best suited for a par-3 hole.

This is another add-on contest that's best situated on a par-3 hole. You'll need two volunteers on this hole: one to take money and another for the all-important task of measuring. For a small fee, golfers can enter and see whose drive comes closest to the pin. The winner gets a prize of some sort; a gift certificate for another round of golf or to spend at the pro shop is a good option.


6: Longest Drive

The longest drive add-on contest is a good one for a par-5 hole. It's similar to the closest-to-the-pin contest, but for this one, the drives will be landing on the fairway. At the tee, ask players if they'd like to ante up and fire away for the chance at fame, glory and a nice prize at the post-tournament dinner. A variation on the longest drive contest is the challenge for the straightest drive.


5: Hole-in-One Challenge

A hole-in-one contest can be its own event (see sidebar) or an add-on to a tournament. Generally, the tournament organizers designate a par-3 as the contest hole. In some tournaments, all golfers are automatically entered in the contest, and sometimes they have the option of paying a fee to enter when they reach that hole. There's also often an option to buy extra shots in the hopes of making an ace.


4: Speed Golf

A speed golf tournament probably wouldn't be the format to pick if you're hosting an event for retirees, say, or World War II veterans. There are no caddies and no carts, and instead of taking a leisurely stroll around the course, players sprint (with their bags, of course) between holes and to their shots. The final score is the sum of a player's score and time, so it's key to find a balance between speed and accuracy.


3: Marathon Golf

These days, people are accustomed to receiving requests for pledges from friends and relatives who are running races, participating in dance marathons and attempting other feats of endurance. Asking people to pledge money for a round of golf might seem a little odd -- but if you call it "marathon golf" and add a few dozen holes to the garden-variety 18, folks will probably be more likely to pony up. A hundred holes played over a weekend is a common length for a marathon golf tournament.


2: Alternate Shot

This is another pretty clear-cut tournament format. Participants play in teams of two and take turns hitting the ball. Player A hits the first drive, Player B hits it from wherever it lands, and so on until the ball's in the cup. The only other rule is that the players have to alternate taking tee shots.


1: Post-tournament Dinner

No golf tournament is complete without a lively post-tournament dinner and awards ceremony -- it's important to thank all the participants (and make sure they'll want to come back next year!). This is the time to recognize the day's team champions, as well as all the add-on winners, and it's also a perfect opportunity to have a raffle or silent auction. And why not present some joke awards, like best- and worst-dressed, while you're at it?

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Berigan, Jim. "5 Money-Making Games to Play at your Next Golf Outing." Step by Step Fundraising. (March 18, 2012) http://www.stepbystepfundraising.com/5-money-making-golf-games/
  • Blue Mash Golf Course. "The Blue Dash FAQ." (March 18, 2012) http://www.bluemash.com/blue-dash-faq
  • Golf Digest Planner. "Golf Event Tips." (March 18, 2012) http://www.golfdigestplanner.com/golf_event_tips.html
  • "What is the best format for my golf event?" (March 18, 2012) http://golfdigestplanner.com/bestpractices/Best_Event_Format.html
  • Golf Glossary. (March 17, 2012) http://www.golfglossary.com/gloss_b.htm
  • Golf Registrations. "Golf Tournament Formats." (March 18, 2012) http://www.golfregistrations.com/s/Golf-Tournament-Formats/index.cfm
  • Newport, John Paul. "18 Holes in 45 Minutes." Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2008. (March 18, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122610474805110179.html